This is the Time

Shabbat Message from CEO Ezra S. Shanken


October 20, 2023 | 5 Cheshvan 5783



This message has about 928 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.

We woke up this morning to heartbreaking news: the city of Kiryat Shmona is being evacuated. 

Our ties with Kiryat Shmona and its residents run very deep. It is the main city in our partnership region of the Upper Galilee, and we have worked closely with the mayor, community leaders, and residents there for decades.  

Hundreds of our local community members have visited the city and region over the years, whether on March of the Living, the King David Grade Eight Trip, teacher exchanges, Federation missions, or other similar programs. Our local day schools have sister schools there, and students have spent time together both in-persona and on Zoom. We have stayed in each other’s homes, shared meals, and grown close with each other’s families.  

In reality, the people of Kiryat Shmona—all 22,000 of them—and the region are our extended family. So, the news today hits very close to home. While none of us have a crystal ball, I think the assumption is that once the ground offensive begins in the south, then we have to expect to be hit from the north. Kiryat Shmona is just two kilometres from Lebanon. 

But there is room for some optimism.  

Over the decades, we have invested in programs that have increased the city’s capacity and we received word this morning that this is paying off. We saw it during the pandemic and we are seeing it now.  

Elad Kozikaro is the CEO of the community centres in Kiryat Shmona, which include Beit Vancouver, the Fouks Centre, and the community hubs in each of the city’s five neighbourhoods. Our Federation, the Coast-to-Coast partnership, Friends of Beit Vancouver, fund holders at the Jewish Community Foundation, and donors we have worked with directly, have built and invested in these centres and related community programs and services for years. Elad and the community centre teams are playing a crucial role as the operating arm of the evacuation—something you have helped make possible through your Annual Campaign support.  

Eran David, with whom we work closely with in the region, reminded us that during the Second Lebanon War, there was chaos in Kiryat Shmona. Individuals rose to the occasion, but there was no systematic city organization to support the public response or map it out. During the pandemic, the community centres were the operating arm of the city and we are seeing that again.  
This is the time to stand together. 

This week, nearly 1,000 Jewish community leaders, professionals and allies stood up against antisemitism and completed the biggest Parliament Hill advocacy blitz in history. 

We held 122 meetings on Parliament Hill in a single day, eclipsing the previous record, which was 74 meetings over a week. The conference was not a reaction to the attack—it was planned months ago—but it took on added significance and urgency for all of us. It was all part of the Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in Ottawa. 
This is the time to lead.  

From our community alone, more than 70 Federation senior staff and volunteer leaders, rabbis, university students, and community members met face to face with Prime Minister Trudeau, Leader of the Opposition Pierre Poilievre, Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh, MP Ed Fast (Abbotsford), MP Taleeb Noormohomad (Vancouver Granville), and many other officials.  

Our goals were threefold: Sensitizing elected officials to the challenges we are facing with antisemitism; sharing our lived experiences; relationship building; and advancing Jewish community policy asks.  

Standing alongside us were many non-Jewish allies, and I want to thank them for their support. Their presence and the words of our government show that we are not alone in this battle against antisemitism.  

Our advocacy agent, The Centre for Jewish and Israel Affairs and Jewish Federations across Canada were instrumental in putting this conference together, which Karen James was national co-chair. Our efforts were supported by a number of sponsors, including several from our community: The Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation, The Diamond Foundation, Horatio Kemeny, Candace and Alan Kwinter, and the Cristall family. 

Back in BC, MLAs from all four parties observed a moment of silence at the legislature for the members of the Canadian Jewish community who were murdered during Hamas' terror attacks while also condemning the attacks.  

This is the time to help. 

There are two important ways to do this—but you don’t have to choose between them. The choice I hope you’ll make is to support them both. 
As always at this time of year, we are running the Federation Annual Campaign to address important needs like making sure families have roofs over their heads and food on their tables, and that seniors won’t face their futures alone—and as you read above it helps build capacity while addressing urgent needs in our partnership region. It’s how we support the programs and services on which thousands of people rely and that are delivered by over 30 partners organizations. If you’ve already made your gift, I want to say a big todah rabbah to you for keeping our community strong. 

At the same time, Israel is in crisis. This war is unlike any before and so are the needs. We have raised over $15 million to date and announced our first disbursement of $2.1 million a few days ago, to our trusted partners on the ground who are addressing the most immediate needs. We are supporting the efforts of several organizations that are helping in a wide array of areas, from immediate relief for victims of terror to protective gear for first responders, and much more. You can see all the details here. We know that the needs will continue to grow and we will be here for the intermediate- and long-term  too. Thank you for making this possible. If you have not had the opportunity to support our Israel Emergency Campaign. Please donate now.  
This is the time to be together.  
You are invited to join us in a show of strength and unity this Saturday evening 8:00 p.m. at the Community Unity Havdalah at Beth Israel. We want to thank the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver for bringing our community together to support Israel and each other.
Tonight, over 100 Israeli families will have an empty seat at their Shabbat table. In solidarity with these families and the more than 200 hostages, please join us on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. at the Vancouver Art Gallery, as we rally to #BringThemHome. Click here to see some of the local activism by the Bring Them Home movement.

Am Israel chai.

Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken

CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Kiryat Shemona received orders to evacuate

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